Harvesting at Paradox House Vineyard

Paradox House Vineyard is located in Industry, Texas and owned by Doug and Linda Rowlett. It was time for harvesting white grapes and they were looking for volunteers to help with this year’s harvest, both Blanc du Bois now and Lenoir later. In exchange for the help, a lunch would be served after harvesting along with Texas wine.

Paradox - vineyard

Besides helping people with their vineyard, Gloria and I thought it would be a good learning experience seeing how Texas grapes are harvested from a vineyard not associated with a winery. The grapes being harvested this past weekend were Blanc du Bois. Because of two freezes after bud break this year, the Blanc du Bois harvest yield was going to be a little low.

Note: However, the Lenoir harvest will be very big and Paradox House Vineyard needs a lot of help to harvest those grapes. They are estimating picking the second weekend in August so please help out if you can. Contact Paradox House Vineyard at 281-435-7227 or paradoxhouse@gmail.com if you can help.

Paradox - Gloria picking

Doug Rowlett gave directions to the group of approximately 30 volunteers on how to harvest. Birds had been enjoying some of the grapes because netting the vines is expensive to prevent that. If we found any brown grapes the birds had enjoyed, we were to remove them from the grapes before depositing in our 5 gallon pails. Gloria and I started at one of the first rows and this was actually the hardest part of picking grapes because the birds had really been enjoying the row we first worked at.

Paradox - grapes

After filling our buckets we delivered them to a bin at the end of the rows where Doug then put dry ice on each layer of grapes. When a bin was full, it was covered with a Styrofoam cover.

Paradox - bin

We went back to different rows to pick and those grapes were less eaten by birds so the collecting of grape clusters was a lot faster. People started leaving to go to the back vineyard but we kept working on the same rows. Digging through the vine canopies, there were still a lot of grapes which were missed by the first people. We filled our buckets and after dumping again, there were 2 ½ bins already full. Eventually harvesting was done and Doug took the grapes to nearby Pleasant Hill Winery. We learned later that a ton and a half of grapes was harvested.

Paradox - trailer

Everybody convened at the house where wines were opened and there were cheese and crackers, chips and salsa, and plenty of other appetizers and drinks. Lunch was soon served by Linda Rowlett and it was fantastic. The wines available were all non-commercial wines which a couple winemakers brought in addition to Paradox House Vineyard. Wines tasted were Paradox House Vineyard Blanc du Bois and Lenoir, along with different Eranch Wine and Camp Eagle wines. The wines were very good for up and coming winemakers.

Paradox - wines

We learned the Lenoir grapes which will be harvested in August will be going to Haak Vineyards and Winery. Again, please volunteer if you can as there will be a lot of grapes and personally the red grapes are a lot easier to see among the green vines.

It had been a fun morning helping harvest and ending with a delicious lunch was the icing on the cake. We enjoyed our time and we’re sure you will too!


Comments

  1. Jeff,
    Thanks for the harvesting report, we must be reminded about helping the vineyards this time of year. Picking grapes is truly a learning and fun experience.

  2. Gail Day says:

    Great job sharing your experience – it makes me think of the conversation about hand harvested versus machine harvested. After experiencing the difficulty and slowness of picking out the bird damaged grapes in each cluster… Just wondering, if you were a full time grape harvester and paid for your work by the weight picked, just how many of those would you take the time to remove? Gives a different viewpoint to “hand picked grapes.” Of course sorting can also occur at the winery before the grapes go into the crusher – but the cache to “hand picked” often romanticizes the notion that its higher quality fruit because no damaged berry is “selected.” As you discovered, you select the cluster and then remove the damaged berries – you don’t leave a large cluster just because it has some damage. You take time to remove the damage. I know for me – the tireder I become the less picky I am, I just want to finish. Machine harvesting is paid for differently. Machines don’t get tired, but they do require expert operators to remove all debris or “MOG” (material other than grapes). The cleaner their harvest and the less “mog” present the higher the price. The machines have blowers to remove leaves or damaged berries (they will weigh less than a plump ripe berry). Of course there are other considerations in the hand harvest versus machine harvest decision that may include: type of trellising (some systems work with machine harvesters and some don’t), the row width, the cost of the machine versus the numbers of acres planted, availability and cost of labor to name a few.

    • Gail, thanks for the additional information on hand harvesting vs. machine harvesting. I was at first like you. The bottom of my first bucket looked nice with pretty grapes but when I heard that the bin had brown grapes from other harvesters and the brown grapes had a lot of juice, the top of my bucket looked less nice. I would be curious as to the quality of the juice from an undamaged grape vs. one that has been partially bitten or just brown. Now obviously ones which are like raisins need to be removed.

  3. Hi Jeff,
    It is a great informative article on harvesting grapes and very good experience you shared throughout the procedure.Thank you

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